By generating press and TV coverage, are protesters against hate speech actually hurting their cause?
Earlier this week, Auburn University in Alabama attempted to prevent alt-right advocate Richard Spencer from renting a space at the school to make a speech expounding his radical position, citing concerns over student safety. The school feared protesters who disagree with Spencer’s views would lead to violence and may result in the kind of disruptions noted at other college arenas and when similar fringe elements collided.
Now we are hearing that conservative columnist and writer Ann Coulter at UC-Berkeley is being pressured to cancel her speaking engagement at the institutions for similar reasons, although she says she, as did Mr. Spencer, still plans to go ahead with her talk.
After a court ruled Auburn could nor deny Spencer’s right to speak, the speech went on, with protests, but was relatively non-violent, with only three arrests and no reported injuries. Past history has shown the affair at Berkeley probably won’t be as subdued.
I am not all that familiar with Richard Spencer’s positions, but from what I have read and heard, I don’t believe I would agree with his policies and thoughts. Having said that, his engagement was only about a thirty-minute ride from my home, but instead of painting signs and posters, I chose to simply ignore the event.
I may not agree with Spencer or Miss Coulter’s politics, but I firmly believe they both have the right to speak their minds in public, as do other sides of the political coin, and attempts to stop them from speaking flies in the face of the First Amendment of the Constitution.
Ironically, those wishing to stop those with whom they disagree from speaking, are using the very tactics that regimes like Nazi Germany used to stifle dissidents in times past. And even more ironic is the fact that the protests and violent acts actually help feed the beast, providing heightened press coverage and television exposure to the speakers.
In short, the anti-speaker demonstrators are assisting the ones they are protesting against. Just like a fire needs fuel to grow, movements, good ones or bad ones, need fuel such as word of mouth or publicity to continue to survive and spread.
Take away the fuel and the fire will die. If you don’t agree with what someone is saying, don’t listen, but don’t take to the streets, and destroy your own neighborhood. Acts such as these are used by extreme fringe activists to show their base that they are right about those they despise.
And some who were on the fence and had never heard of the speaker, could be attracted to their message because of the actions of a few violent protesters they see on TV and become converts.
Right-wing and left-wing activists have the same right to free speech as do all other American citizens. And as an American citizen, I also have the right to choose to ignore either or both of them. I often exercise that right, and I encourage others to do the same.